NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate Interview with Alan Miranda

Suzie Ford | 14 Apr 2008 19:51
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WarCry: What is the typical development cycle like at Ossian Studios?

Alan Miranda: When it comes to Forgotten Realms D&D projects, we start off by finding a location to set the adventure. There are certain spots in the Realms that have been done to death, so it's always a bit of a challenge to find something unique but popular at the same time. Once a location is decided upon, we run it past Atari and WotC in order to clear it, and then have our designers brainstorm some ideas for a story. Mixed in with this brainstorming (and very much linked to it) is figuring out what art assets to create, such as creatures, tilesets, and placeables.

When this pre-production is finished, we have our writing team start work on dialogues, and our level design team start work on areas. The technical designers (scripters) will then take these components to start implementing the critical path and, later on, sidequests. Generally, it's a good idea to have your tilesets ready early on, so that implementation isn't held up by area creation.

The end of the process focuses on testing the critical path and sidequests using our own testing team, as well as working with Atari's QA team, and we fix any bugs that are encountered. In fact, our whole team participates in the game's testing, and throughout development anyone is able to suggest improvements to any part of the game.

WarCry: Is it difficult to bring together developers from different parts of the world and/or the US?

Alan Miranda: I think working remotely over the Internet, as is our setup at Ossian, has an excellent advantage over moving people to an office at a central location. For example, not everyone is able to move, or is even interested in moving to a new and particular location. Working from home also has a tremendous advantage, in that you get to work in your most comfortable environment. And being able to hire people from anywhere in the world allows Ossian to hire the best the world has to offer.

It's not a simple thing to do, and definitely more difficult than a bunch of people getting together in one office every day. But after two projects, we've definitely made it work and are continuing to improve our tools and methods for remote development. As a cohesive team though, we come together very well, which is a sharp contrast to the first few months of Daggerford's development in the Spring of 2005 where finding the right people for the team, and then having them keep in touch and working well together, was a challenge.

WarCry: Does Ossian Studios have any further plans to develop adventure packs for NWN 2 or for any other games?

Alan Miranda: We definitely do have plans to develop add-on content for other games - we are, in fact, developing them right now. :) Expect to hear more about them in the future.

WarCry: For others considering module development and forming their own companies, what advice can you offer?

Alan Miranda: There's probably plenty of advice I could give on this, but the one key piece of advice I will focus on is to stay realistic on the scope of projects you wish to do. It's always good to dream, and that's a requisite in this kind of creative business, but don't be unrealistic about it when you actually have to attempt it. It will only increase the odds against you when you have to carry those plans through, and hence increase the chance of failure. You may still be successful, but the tradeoff will be the amount of pain it will take to get it done.

We learned this the hard way on Darkness over Daggerford, where we set out to build an expansion-sized NWN1 mod with a very small team. Granted, we were luckily successful and it gained a lot of acclaim (it's still downloaded around 225 times a week), but it took us through the grinder to get it done. We definitely created a superior and more polished product with Mysteries of Westgate, while staying a lot more realistic.

WarCry: Please add any other information that you wish readers to know either about the adventure pack, the studio, and/or the developers.

Alan Miranda: NWN2: Mysteries of Westgate is a fantastic adventure pack, and we really hope that RPG fans have a great time playing it. The MoW team worked extremely hard on it and we are very proud of them.

Ossian Studios continues to grow as we take on new projects and bring more people onto our teams, and we will always focus on making top-quality epic adventures, especially RPGs. We really can't wait for you to play them!

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